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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Former basketball star to discuss addiction, recovery in Norwich on Tuesday

    Former NBA player Chris Herren talks about his recovery from drug and alcohol addiction at East Lyme High School on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Norwich ― High school athletes, their parents and friends are being urged to attend a special program Tuesday that will begin with video career highlights of a former basketball star before he takes the stage to speak to his audience.

    But this isn’t a celebrity sports star here to wow young athletes about the world of professional basketball. Chris Herren has a much bigger message to relay to high school students who might be sitting in the spot where he was some 30 years ago.

    That’s when Herren was in what he calls the first days in his journey of alcohol and drug addiction that ranged from cigarettes and alcohol to prescription drugs, heroin, cocaine and vodka that killed his basketball career and nearly cost him his family and his life.

    Herren, 47, will tell his frank and emotional story in an hour-long program beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Jacqueline B. Owens Auditorium at Kelly STEAM Magnet Middle School, 25 Mahan Drive, Norwich. The program is free and open to the public, sponsored by Norwich Human Services and Norwich Public Schools, and funded through a federal American Recue Plan Act grant. Registration is not required.

    Erin Haggan, director of youth services and recreation, said she saw Herren speak in Griswold three years ago and wanted to bring his powerful message to Norwich. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed that plan, but federal recovery grant money now is helping to fund the program.

    Haggan has contacted athletic directors in Norwich and surrounding high schools to try to bring in as many student athletes, their parents and friends as possible to the 800-seat auditorium to hear Herren’s story.

    The program will begin with a brief video of Herren’s career highlights as a record-breaking high school basketball star in Fall River, Mass., to his brief time at Boston College, second chance at Fresno State University, two NBA seasons and seven years in pro ball in Europe and the Middle East. Herren’s career highlights became a blur seen through his clouded eyes of alcohol and substance addiction.

    In recovery since 2008, Herren founded Herren Talks and travels the country speaking to youths about his own substance use disorder, recovery and how to avoid the pressures and traps he fell through.

    Haggan said she believes the program would ring true for high school athletes undergoing similar dreams and pressures, and for their families.

    “We think it’s important to hear,” Haggan said. “What was going through Chris’ mind when he was undergoing this. He talks about his interactions with his parents and what was really going on with him in that time. It’s also for adults in recovery, because he’s got a story of hope. Because recovery is possible.”

    During a 90-minute interview with VLADTV, which specializes in in-depth celebrity interviews, Herren openly described the attraction and consequences of the various substances he used throughout his career and how they drained his finances.

    Herren recalled the great feeling of financial comfort to insert an ATM card and draw out hundreds at a time for Oxycontin pills, and the dejection when he drew out his last $50. He talked of grabbing and popping pills, snorting, smoking and then injecting heroin, turning to hallucinogens and when the money ran out, to cheap hard vodka he concealed in water bottles, sipping occasionally.

    Failed drug tests, team suspensions, overdoses, arrests and clandestine arrangements with suppliers at each stop from the U.S. to Italy, Poland, Germany and even Iran, marked his career as he and his wife tried to raise their three sons, he said. He thought erroneously he was ready to become sober for the birth of his third son.

    For information about Tuesday’s program, contact Haggan at Norwich Human Services, (860) 823-3782.


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